Downton Abbey: A New Era (PG13)
125 minutes, opens April 28, 3 stars
The British series ran for six seasons (2010 to 2015) and joins a select club of shows that have spawned film franchises.
Downton Abbey also achieved the rare feat of segueing to the big screen while adhering to the original stories and using the same cast.
Downton Abbey: A New Era is set in 1928, several months after the events of the first movie, Downton Abbey (2019). A studio offers Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) a good fee if he allows them to turn Downton into a movie set.
With the encouragement of his family, he agrees, as the roof is in need of repair. The cast and crew move in, and the Crawleys meet the dapper actor Guy Dexter (Dominic West) and director Jack Barber (Hugh Dancy).
Meanwhile, the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) has inherited a villa in southern France from a nobleman she met briefly decades ago. Hoping to fix a legal wrangle over the villa, enjoy the summer sun on the Mediterranean coast and avoid the chaos of the film production, she and a few members of the family - including Robert, his wife Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) and butler Carson (Jim Carter) - head to France for a working holiday.
Series creator Julian Fellowes and the production team have succeeded in making a soothing movie - perhaps a little too well.
The series has always served as a nostalgic reminder of a more genteel time, while also presenting the aristocracy and their servants as relatable archetypes - the petty and gossipy one, the kind-hearted one, the cantankerous snob and the quiet socialist.
The movie carries on the tradition. The stories unwind with such a picturesque calmness, one wishes something would come along to shake up the complacency.
That shake-up, according to its makers, is supposed to come in the shape of The Gambler, the movie production that sweeps into Downton.
While the intrusion provides a brief flurry of excitement - among the residents of the home, as well as the audience - it soon settles into the gentle ensemble comedy-drama that is the franchise's brand.
In the original series, Scotland was the farthest the Crawleys travelled. This time, when a small group makes its way to the French Riviera, the wardrobe becomes paler and more summery. The greys and browns of England make way for the golds and blues of the Mediterranean coast.
It is a nice visual break and, like the movie-within-a-movie story, offers low-key chuckles and mild heartbreak, but nothing deeper.
The Ledge (NC16)
90 minutes, opens April 28, not reviewed
This thriller, set on the face of a mountain, opens with climber Kelly (Brittany Ashworth) recording a murder on her camera. With the killers in pursuit, she tries to escape by climbing up a treacherous cliff - until she becomes trapped.